brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on August 11th, 2020

When you listen
the soft coo
of the mourning dove
reveals the beauty of life

Drops of dew
on blades of grass
sparkle light
into your soul

Water lapping
on the lake
slows your pace
restores your rhythm

When you listen
dawn reveals
the answers
to your problems

The crow’s caw
speaks wisdom
and you know
what you need to do

When you listen
silence becomes your friend
you no longer need
to run from yourself

you understand
life’s wisdom
can only be learned
in the silence

When you listen
the Creator
you are good

In the silence
your soul is fed
with endless gifts
of love

When you listen
you realize  
something deep
and mysterious

something sacred
is taking place in your life
right here
right now

and the more attentive
you become
the more you
see and understand it

When you listen
your heart
and soul
lead the way

Your feet catch up
to the One Life
you’ve only imagined
could be yours

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 8th, 2020

What if you were peter
in the boat
with the others

tossed and battered
wind howling
waters raging

it’s not just this storm
you know
it’s every turmoil  
you’ve endured

life has beaten

you hunker down
into the hull of a wooden boat
that crashes upon the sea
as life’s waves slap hope out of you

in desperation
you stand
gaze upon the waters
wondering if
there’s a break in the storm

then you see the One
the outstretched hand
the loving eyes fixed upon yours

you hear the Voice
calling your name

what if you were peter
in that moment
in that boat
with that choice?

the one we all must make

do I stay in the pit of fear and despair
or take a risk the Divine Hand
that stretches toward me is not a ghost
not a figment of my imagination?

it is real

the Creator reaches
through the sea of my life
to touch and heal

to help me walk on water

would you take the Hand?
would you get out of the boat?
would you keep your eyes fixed
on the One who loves you?

would you
push past fear
claim your courage
and let your heart cry out, “save me”?

we are all peter
we all have the same choice

do we sink?


do we
grasp the
saving Hand
entrust our lives
to the Divine
to the One
who seeks to embrace
and guide us?

what if you were peter?

would you get out of the boat?

—-brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on July 28th, 2020

Remember Tigger?  That lively, hyperactive tiger—who’s bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, and pouncy?

An article in The Guardian  magazine suggests Tigger suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It manifests itself in his restlessness and impulsiveness.

I often feel like Tigger. I bounce from one thought to another, leap from one project to the next. My inner bouncing sometimes scares me. Maybe I’ve got “Tigger-syndrome”—a dose of ADHD.

At a Wisdom School retreat, I attended several years ago, the leader taught us a simple practice to ground ourselves. She invited us to go outside and rake leaves in a small group. When someone in the group called out, “Find your feet,” we stopped raking, planted our feet on the ground, and drew our attention to the connection we felt with the earth beneath us. We then spoke aloud a word or phrase describing what we were experiencing.

“Joy,” someone called out. “Tingling,” another said. “Grateful.” “Grounded.” “Rooted.” “Peaceful.”  The words and expressions continued for a few moments. Then we’d go back to raking until someone again called out, “Find your feet.”

This practice slowed me and relaxed my body. It pulled me back into the present moment so I could experience it as gift. I connected with my spirit.

Since attending the retreat, I’ve tried to integrate the “find-your-feet” practice into daily life—and added a new twist to it.

When I notice I’m scattered, bouncing like Tigger, or defaulting into stinking-thinking, I stop, place my feet on the ground or floor for a moment, feel the sensations in my body, and name one or two things for which I’m grateful.

Standing with feet flat on the ground, I find myself grateful for my body. Grateful for God’s love and acceptance of me as I am. Grateful for my family and friends. Grateful for health, this moment, this breath. Grateful for the Spirit God has placed within my heart.

The find-your-feet practice stops my inner bouncing. It grounds me in my heart and pulls me out of the Tigger Syndrome. It reconnects me with the stability of the earth and the gift of the present moment.

Brother David Steindl-Rast in Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, writes that the practice of gratitude is a pathway to inner peace. He says, “What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this given life in all its fullness.”

I still love Tigger and the Tigger in me. But by stopping and naming something I’m grateful for, I reconnect with something deeper. I experience peace and balance. I rediscover my inner self hidden in God.

As I go back to the day’s tasks, I do so with a positive spirit, a renewed heart, a pure energy. And when I get bouncy, trouncy, and flouncy again, I stop, find my feet, and name something for which I’m grateful.  

Find your feet. Ground yourself in gratitude.

It’s a fun remedy for the Tigger Syndrome.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on July 22nd, 2020

I often hear two voices—
The voice in my head
And the voice in my heart.  

The voice in my head
fills me with shame and doubt.
Tells me I’m flawed.
I don’t measure up.
It reminds me of
all the times I’ve failed.
“You’ll never win,” it scoffs.

The voice in my heart
tells me something different.
I’m God’s Beloved.
I’m perfectly human.
I’m good enough.
I’m love and loved.

The voice in my head is loud and brash.
I can’t trust it to tell me the truth.

The voice in my heart is patient and kind.
It listens first and whispers later.

To which voice do I listen?

I desire to follow
the voice of my heart
but the voice in my head
is relentless,
an untamed beast
that hounds me.

I stop,
quiet myself,
placing hands to chest

In the stillness
In the bridal chamber of my heart
I hear the Voice of Truth whisper,
“Do not be afraid.
I am with you.
You’re okay.
You can do this.”

A chorus of birds
sing Psalms
outside my den window
we praise the Voice of Truth.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on July 16th, 2020

The fiery red globe of light sank toward the horizon as the heavens joined the earth. Threads of angelic blue feathered the sky, mingling with white rolling clouds, as buckets of orange, then red, then dark blue, splashed their colors across the skyline until all that was left of the sunset was that mysterious green flash only wise sailors say they can see.

I watched this summer sunset unfold over Lake Michigan one dusk. It had wisdom to teach me as I experienced it first with an open heart, and then with a clinging mind.

Unfiltered by thought, my heart pondered. This is it. This beauty unfolding is in God. Everything is in God. I tasted what was there and now without having to dissect it.

My heart overflowed with awe. I breathed in the joy of being part of nature—a participant with the water, the sun, the sky, and God in a pure exchange. The “oneness” of the moment caressed my lungs. The golden hues of daylight turning to twilight bathed my skin.

But then my mind demanded to step in. It wanted to evaluate the sunset. Name it. Grasp it. Cling to it like there was something beyond, something I had to figure out or capture. I grabbed my phone and clicked a bunch of photos.

While my wife continued to stare at the setting sun, I jammed my I-phone at her face. “Isn’t that a great sunset? Look at this cool picture I took of it.”

Poof! The “in-the-moment” experience of being One with nature’s glory vanished as my talking head pushed aside my silent heart. In the subtle shift from heart to head, our encounter with inner beauty disappeared.

Jon Kabat-Zinn in, Wherever You Go There You Are, says we need to remind ourselves occasionally, "This is it." This present moment is the gift we’ve been given, and there’s nothing we need “do” with it, except receive it.

Bernadette Roberts, in The Experience of No-Self, echoes Zinn’s wisdom. She details her life-long spiritual journey of learning how to let go of the “ego-self” that grasps and clings with the intellectual mind, and discovering the “no-self” that simply experiences life in the heart-felt present moment.

Roberts writes, “I felt bad about the fact that man lives his whole life in the false expectation that some ultimate reality lies hidden behind, beneath, or beyond what is. And I remembered my own life of searching and looking and now saw what a complete waste it had been. All the experiences of my life had been nothing more than a head trip, a great psychological hoax, a pointless circular affair….”

The Creator’s grace invites us to taste each moment as a spoonful of Divinity. When we move from the head into the heart we awake to where we are. We return to what Roberts calls the “non-reflective mind.” When we come to the realization—the final acceptance—that everything is in God, Roberts says, we realize what we see is all we get. This is it. It’s enough, more than enough. There’s nothing underneath, nothing to look beyond, and nothing to look around for.

As I watched the sun continue its slow descent, I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and shifted my focus back to my silent heart.

“This is it,” I whispered to soothe my mind. The beauty returned. It was in me, in the sky, and all around me.

I stopped trying to figure it out—whatever “it” was or is. It didn’t matter. In that moment, I was in the Garden of Eden savoring the fruit of God’s endless love unfolding across a lavish summer sky.

The sunset was my teacher that night showing me how to savor beauty and joy; teaching me how to live from an open heart instead of from a clinging mind.

I didn’t see the green flash as the sun closed its eyes. I did however, feel God smiling in my heart as together we tasted those eternal moments.

As a spiritual practice this week, remind yourself occasionally, This is it.

Notice how your silent heart knows what to do.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on July 12th, 2020

Take me to that place
That quiet place within my heart
where the only truth is you,
where everything comes back to you,
O God

Where moist morning air
swirls across my skin
and your Divine Breath
invites me to inhale
the gift of this moment

Where the squirrel
feasts at the bird feeder
and you scatter seeds
of abundant love
into my

Where the mighty ant
carries grain morsels
faithfully along the sidewalk
and you carry the weight of me
across the wilderness
of my life’s journey

Where birds sing morning melodies
and hymns of resounding praise
echo within me

Where sap drips from evergreen branches
and their earthy wooden smell
intoxicates me with
your everlasting grace

Take me to that place, O God
That place where you and I
dwell as One

Where the veil parts
and nothing separates us
as the tender and strong body
of creation holds and comforts me

Where everything comes back to you
Where the only truth is you

There is such a place
I know it
I taste it
I feel it in my soul

It fills me
with simple pleasures of
Divine Presence

It is in this moment
It is in every moment

I need only
accept it
and allow you
to have your way in me

Take me to that place
That place
I wish to dwell
now and forever more

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 30th, 2020

When a new automobile rolls off the assembly line, the automaker gets a Certificate of Title for the vehicle. The title lists the year the auto was manufactured along with its serial number, make, and model. It identifies the car as one of a kind.

After your birth, the hospital issued a birth certificate. The certificate listed your name, date of birth, sex, and your parents’ names. It identified you as unique.

Imagine if God imprinted the word “BELOVED” in large bold letters on your birth certificate—because in God’s world, that’s who you are: the Creator’s Beloved child.

The Source of Life deemed it vital for you to be breathed into existence. The world would be incomplete without your make and model, without your unique personality and gifts, and without the love you’ve been given to splash upon the earth.

According to Urban Dictionary, “A beloved is a much adored, treasured, loved one.” The word defines someone loved unconditionally with the strongest of devotion—a person gifted with a love so rare and true that it’s the purest of all loves.

This is the “first love” with which each of us have been created. God’s original blessing of agape love for us existed long before our births. This first love was written in the heavens before the beginning of time. The Creator gave us life and unconditional love so we could be part of his Divine Plan, with each person having a unique role in the universe’s unfolding.

Henri Nouwen, in the Now and Then podcast, addresses the central question, “Who am I?” He invites us to embrace the answer with an ever-deepening knowledge we are the Beloved. We are God’s Beloved.

There are many other loves in our lives—our family, friends, and mate. Each individual loves us with human love, which differs from God’s Divine Love. Nouwen points out that human love is imperfect, so we’re often hurt by our loved ones. Our relationships are filled with passion and joy, but are also the source of pain and suffering.

When we’re hurt by a loved one, Nouwen says we should remember our first love—the voice of God that calls us the Beloved. When we claim the Creator’s unconditional love, we recall who we are and find the inner strength to forgive and grow.

And when headbanging self-talk overwhelms us, remembering who we are allows us to replace our negative thoughts with truth.

We’re not our work or accomplishments, Nouwen states. We’re not our mistakes or what others say we are. We’re not what we possess or our social status. We are the Beloved—God’s Original Blessing. All of us. Everyone. Without exception.

This basic truth is difficult to claim because life is filled with noise and competition. We’re flooded with unkind words that shame us and tell us untruths. This pain can overshadow the incredible love bestowed upon us—the unconditional love that’s marked on our birth certificates.

We are the Beloved. If we can embrace this truth, it becomes a natural part of how we live. It shapes our vision and molds our personality as we become what we claim.

This week, tattoo the word Beloved on your heart. Savor it like a cup of fresh tea.

You are the Beloved.

Claim it!

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 25th, 2020

That Voice

that voice
that inner voice
the one I can’t see
or touch or hear
except with the ears of my heart

that elusive voice,
which rises above all others

quiet, soft, mysterious,
it splashes
the marrow of my heart
with love

I seek that voice
Rise early in the morning
sit in silence
hoping I can find it,
hear it

it finds me
as dawn’s gentle breeze
blows back the veil
from the face of God

I hear the Creator’s voice
It offers healing
Bestows wisdom
Awakens my soul
Provides guidance
Invites me to taste the joy of being alive

the mourning dove coos
outside my window

she too hears that Voice
together we sing praises
to the One
who gives life

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 20th, 2020

“Who am I?”

It’s an important question, since our answer shapes the core of our identity. Am I my work? My role as a spouse or parent? Am I what people think about me? Am I my accomplishments?

Jesus asked  Peter, “Who do you say I am?”  Peter responded, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus then recalled what his Father told him at his baptism, “You are my Beloved, upon whom my favor rests.”

According to an article in Tabletalk Magazine, as Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding, he realized that every prophecy in the Old Testament was written to and about him. He came to know he was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Son to embody the wisdom and righteousness of the Psalms and the Proverbs to become the source of that wisdom and righteousness for us. He realized he was the Son of David, and his mission was to personify the saving and unconditional love of the Father.

Imagine that lightbulb moment which must have occurred while Jesus was praying, studying and reading the Old Testament scriptures and realized “OMG. I am the one about whom all of this stuff in Scripture is written. I am the Good Shepherd, called to lead my Father’s flock.”

It must have taken immense courage and conviction to embrace who he was, to ignore the rulers and religious leaders who contradicted him, and then to fulfill his mission.

Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Aren’t we given the task of discovering who we are and embracing the unique role God has given us?

If so, how do we do that?

While there’s no cookie-cutter approach to discovering who we are, Jesus’ life serves as a model.  Here’s some of what he embodied through his life’s journey.

1.You are my Beloved.  Jesus claimed the words his Father spoke to his heart at baptism. He refused to let the world, politics, or his accomplishments define him. He let the Father tell him who he was. These same words are spoken to each of us: “You are my Beloved.” Our task is to embrace those words in our hearts and not let the false voices in our heads tell us otherwise. Celtic author John O’Donohue writes, “Because the mind is always engaged with whatever is happening now, it often forgets who we are. The heart never forgets. Everything of significance is inscribed there. The heart is the archive of all our intimate memory. What is truly felt leaves the deepest inscription. Each of us carries the book of our life inside our heart.” Written on our hearts are the words, “You are God’s Beloved.”  Trust that truth.

2.Solitude. Jesus looked to the Father for wisdom and understanding. He took time each day to be alone with God to remind him who he was. In the quiet, Jesus received the guidance and direction he needed for the day. Lakota elder Frank Fools Crow taught that like the hollow shaft of a feather, we too must become a “hollow bone” through which spiritual energy and wisdom can fill us. Jesus knew the inner voice of God could be heard in the silence. He created hollow space every day to be still and listen. It was the source of his Divine Power. If we create sacred space for daily solitude with God, his inner voice becomes our Divine Power too.

3.Discovering our Gifts. As Jesus read the scriptures, he discovered his gifts of leadership, healing, and teaching. We too have been gifted with unique talents intended to be life-giving for ourselves and others. Our task is to discover those talents and use them to bring about the kingdom of love here on earth as it is in heaven.  In an earlier blog titled Tap Into Joy, we discussed resources that can help us unearth our talents. Taking a spiritual gifts inventory is a good way of discovering who we are and what we’ve been called to be. Discovering our gifts is life-giving.

4.Embracing our Gifts
.  Jesus was and is the Light of God who used his unique talents to teach the world how to love. He reminded us not to put our light under a basket—not to hide our abilities. Instead, like Christ, we’re called to be the Light of the world. John O’Donohue offers the same wisdom. He writes, “There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.” To be whole we must claim our gifts, embrace them, and put them at the service of the Universe.

The Gift of Vulnerability

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m sometimes scared to be a writer, teacher, and spiritual mentor. I worry if anyone knew what it’s like to be me on the inside, they’d never read my words or ask me to walk alongside them.  When I show up to the page to write, I often shudder with fear. I’m not sure what to write or what to say. I want to run away. But then I sit in the quiet and listen, and the words flow—not from my mind, but from my heart.  

We make ourselves vulnerable by claiming and becoming who we are—who we are called to be. It’s much easier to let what we wear, what school we attended, what politics we claim, or our social status define us. But all that stuff leaves us empty as we search for something more.

Maybe vulnerability is a gift. By asking God to tell us who we are and what we’ve been invited to do to make the world a more loving place, our willingness to be vulnerable creates the hollow space for God speak to our hearts.

Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

Years ago, after my mom died and my youngest child left for college, a buddy encouraged me to get a tattoo to acknowledge these milestones. I thought and prayed about it for several weeks. Then at church one Sunday, the Old Testament reading was about Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. I felt the God-nudge, and later that week got a small tattoo on my leg depicting the symbol for wisdom as a reminder to pray for God’s wisdom in the second half of life.

I am not a wise man. But I know from where wisdom comes. It comes from the silent whisper of the Holy Spirit.

And so, I sit each morning and listen with my heart. I don’t listen to the words in my mind or the words of the media or politics—their alleged “wisdom” is a noisy gong too devious for truth.

I listen for God’s wisdom. Sometimes I hear it like a gentle whisper deep within my soul. Even when I don’t hear it, I sense God is here, somewhere between the spaces of each breath, reminding me of who I am.

O God, tell me who I am.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 14th, 2020

June – the beginning of summer’s lackadaisical days – it’s the time we tend to pull back from daily routines and create space for frolic and family vacations. Whether it’s a staycation or a let’s-explore vacation, summer gives us new opportunities to experience the glory of God.
My fondest memories of summer are those wrapped in nature, next to my father. When I was 8, my parents rented a small cabin just down a dirt road from a spring-fed lake. One night, Dad invited me and my siblings to join him for a midnight swim.

Steam rose as we tiptoed into the lake’s silky-smooth water. My heart pounded with a mixture of excitement and fear as Dad jumped into the depths of the lake. When he came back up, he stood tall next to me, shaking water from his hair. The droplets sprinkled my boyish skin. I felt like I was being baptized for a second time.

Dad gazed up at the starlit sky. He stood silently in the water, immersed in reverence. It was if he were connecting to something or someone up in the heavens, but the bond was much closer. He closed his eyes and folded his wet hands on his chest. I could almost hear his heart beat.

“Look, son,” my dad said as he opened his eyes and pointed to a shooting star flashing across the cathedral sky. “That’s how much God loves you. He created all of this – the stars, the lake, the trees – simply because he wants you to be happy. He wants you to enjoy the gift of life he’s given you.”

We gazed at the dancing stars for several long moments. I shot a side-glance at my dad. He was contemplating the sky. He didn’t move or talk. His head tilted slightly as though listening to someone speak. The muscles of his face were soft and relaxed. A smile radiated between his cheeks.

It was as if Dad were absorbed in prayer – like he was listening to an inner voice – a voice that had no sound but was speaking to him, through him.

It took years before I understood the voice my dad heard that summer night. But standing there next to him in the water, I knew that voice was real. I knew Dad heard it and I wanted to hear it too.

Now, as an adult with children, grandchildren and life experiences of my own, I understand that Dad was guided by God’s voice, and his reliance upon that guidance made him whole. It allowed my father to recognize and follow the path God unfolded for him day by day. It shaped and filled him with wisdom.

I also understand now why Dad spent time quietly each day sipping morning coffee alone in his den. I know why Dad turned off the car radio when he took my sister and me to school. He was listening for that voice – God’s summer voice – the one he heard as we stood bathed in the star-lit lake.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27) Have you heard that voice? Have you entered the quiet and allowed that voice speak to you – guide you? I think the voice Jesus refers to is the Holy Spirit – the one who whispers to our hearts – the voice of love that leads and guides us on life’s pathway.

Perhaps as men and women, fathers, mothers, grandparents, uncles and aunts we can learn to hear that voice and follow it.

And through teachable moments like that midnight swim with my dad, we can show our loved ones how to recognize that voice too.

—brian j plachta

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